Commentary

Opinion: Top tips on how to succeed with modern returners

It’s time that retailers stop paying lip service to a good returns experience and do more to improve the experience since for modern returners, variety, trust and transparency are not just buzzwords, according to Graham Best, CEO of ReBOUND.

It’s common knowledge in ecommerce that today’s shoppers, especially millennials, are harder to please than ever before. A dramatic change in shopping habits means that lifestyle now trumps commodities for Gen Y and Z. Retailers must respond with seamless cross-platform capabilities to stay one step ahead.

This is just as apparent for returns. Our recent research found that a negative returns experience can result in consumers rejecting that retailer in the future. This is especially important for younger shoppers; 59% of those under 35 would stop shopping with a brand if the returns process wasn’t up to scratch.

However, delivering an excellent returns service to this key demographic is perhaps easier than you might think. It boils down to communication and offering shoppers the freedom to return goods as it suits them. And contrary to popular belief, it won’t cost you the earth either.

To succeed with modern returners, here are some top tips:

1) Broaden your returns offering

Over the past few years the delivery sector has become a hotbed of innovation. Lockers, collection points, one-hour delivery and hundreds of startups are dedicated to delivery convenience. But when it comes to returns, too many retailers rely on a limited number of services rather than offering real choices to consumers. In fact, 38% of retailers do not offer multiple returns options for their customers globally.

For younger shoppers, these choices are a key factor in their satisfaction with a returns service. Our recent mystery shopping campaign found a direct correlation between the number of return methods offered and how convenient shoppers found the overall process; over 60% of consumers found their returns experience “very convenient” when a retailer offered three or more returns options.

It is certainly valuable for ecommerce businesses to expand their returns offering. Let your shoppers enjoy variety, rather than monotony.

2) Go beyond the 14 day standard

For UK retailers, they are legally required to offer a 14 day window for consumers to return items for a refund. However just because it’s the legal standard doesn’t mean it’s impressive to your shoppers. With the growing prevalence of unlimited returns among some fashion retailers, consumers are more discerning than ever about how much time they’re given to return their items.

The problem for some retailers is the preconception that with a longer returns window, shoppers will take longer and longer to return items, leading to a drastic loss in stock efficiency. With the threat of potentially adding delays and extra costs to a business’ reverse logistics, some are shying away from broadening their windows.

We wanted to interrogate this by cross-referencing the average number of days it took shoppers to return items against the allocated time frame across a range of policies. Our results were surprising; across policy lengths ranging from 180 to just 14 days, the majority of consumers still returned their items within the first two weeks after purchase.

This demonstrates that there is actually very little risk in extending your returns policy than you might think. Regardless of how long you advertise for returns, most of your customers will still return items within the initial 14 days. Nevertheless, the confidence that a longer policy offers is invaluable for shoppers when making the initial purchase. Given the amount retailers can gain in brand trust by providing a more accommodating returns window, it’s a no-brainer for us.

3) Be upfront, transparent and communicative

Of course, while you may offer a diverse range of returns options with a generous policy window, if you aren’t effectively communicating this with your customers then it can have a serious impact on their returns experiences.

Our research found that 17% of retailers do not clearly advertise a refund promise on their returns policies, leaving customers with little reassurance that the brand has their interests at heart. Not only this, but we also found that over half of shoppers either received no communication during the returns process itself, or were only emailed once their refund had gone through. Given the delay between the customer shipping the product and the refund itself, this again doesn’t inspire confidence in shoppers.

On the one hand, this is relatively straightforward to fix: simply advertise the finer points of your returns policy more clearly and enable customers to track their packages across their journeys. However, it requires a deeper examination of your overall processes in order to turn around. Changes to how a team interacts with its customers can sometimes require cultural restructures alongside technical considerations. Be sure not to rush this process; increasing transparency and communications deserves a steady hand.

In the age of try before you buy, it’s essential to offer the best returns service possible to keep up with evolving consumer expectations. This not only builds a shopper’s trust in your brand, but is a key competitive advantage in the modern age.

Graham Best, CEO of ReBOUND

Image credits: ReBOUND and Fotolia